Senate Offers New School Finance Plan
In the last few years, few issues have received more attention than education funding and property tax reform. Earlier this week, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst and the Texas Senate laid out a plan that would dramatically reduce property taxes and replace the current system of school finance.
Under the proposed plan, property taxes would be cut in half, going from the current $1.50 cap to a cap of 75 cents. The plan would also do away with the current "Robin Hood" school finance plan while preserving equity funding for Texas school children.
The plan would put 98 percent of school children in an equalized system in which taxpayers would spend about the same for each child's basic educational costs. Currently, 85 percent are in an equalized system.
I believe this plan will result in much needed property tax relief for Texans, while ensuring our children have every educational opportunity. Key components of the plan are:
Property Tax Relief:
Repeal Local Property Tax: Repeal local school district Maintenance and Operations (M&O) tax.
Establish Texas Education Fund: Establish Texas Education Fund in the Texas Constitution dedicated to elementary and secondary schools and funded with a state tax on property capped at 75 cents, which would have the effect of cutting average M&O property taxes by half.
Create the Voter-Approved Public Education Enrichment Tax: Allow voter approval of an additional ten cents of local enrichment tax on property to fund programs in excess of the basic program funded by the state.
Maintain Local Control of Schools: Plan would maintain the current local control of schools, but provide funding from the state level.
Eliminate Robin Hood:
Eliminate Robin Hood as it Currently Exists: The Texas Education Fund, funded with a state tax on property capped at 75 cents, would replace the current system of recapture.
Improve Equity: The state Texas Education Fund would distribute funds equally among all Texas school children, guaranteeing virtually the same spending per pupil in all areas of the state.
Establish Texas Education Fund: Establish Texas Education Fund in the Texas Constitution dedicated to elementary and secondary schools funded with a state tax on property capped at 75 cents, which would have the effect of cutting property taxes by half.
Authorize State Funding for the Proposal: The Constitutional Amendment would authorize the imposition of taxes on sales and property to fund the Texas Education Fund.
Guaranteed Property Tax Relief: Property tax relief would be guaranteed in the Texas Constitution and capped at 75 cents, with up to 10 cents of local enrichment.
School Funding Guarantee:
Guaranteed Spending per Pupil: School districts would initially be guaranteed $4,200 per weighted pupil.
Hold Harmless: Districts would not receive less than under current funding formulas.
Create the Public Education Enrichment Tax: Allow voter approval of an additional ten cents of local enrichment tax on property to fund programs in excess of the basic program funded by the state. All districts would be guaranteed access to at least $30 per penny of tax rate per weighted pupil.
Shifts Responsibility for Funding Public Schools to the State Level: The proposal would shift the responsibility for funding the basic program for public schools to the state.
Expand the sales tax base by including most services currently exempted, except medical services.
Increase the state sales tax to between 7.5% and 7.85%.
Increase the motor vehicle sales tax rate to the total sales tax rate (state + local).
Provide Sales Tax exemptions for Lone Star Card holders.
Revenues generated at the local level through expansion of the sales tax base could be dedicated to education, additional property tax relief, or local sales tax reductions.
Interim Task Force:
Establish a Blue Ribbon Task Force to study funding formulas, the components of an excellent public education, and achievement in public schools to develop recommendations for the 79th Legislative Session in 2005.
To contact Sen. Deuell about the legislative process, contact the Capitol Office at (512) 463-0102 or mail to Sen. Bob Deuell, Texas Senate, P.O. Box 12068, Austin, TX 78711. The website for the Texas Senate is www.Senate.state.tx.us. The e-mail address for Sen. Deuell is: email@example.com.